While some students - including those with autism - report being happier with online learning due to the absence of issues like bullying and having their needs met better at home, others may find remote learning to be a major challenge.
With issues regarding the online format, the social aspects of online learning, and schedule changes, there’s no question that making the change to online learning can be stressful and overwhelming for many children on the spectrum.
From creating a new schedule to using helpful online tools, here are just three ways that parents can help their child navigate remote learning successfully.
The value in creating a predictable routine
While online learning can aid in removing the social pressures that are often present in person, some children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may feel particularly overwhelmed, especially when considering the fact that school provides a solid and predictable routine.
Because a sudden lack of routine can be stressful for a child on the spectrum, creating a new routine can help. This can be done by setting specific times for the start of the school day, breaks, and the end of the day. Using a technique called ‘priming’ can be especially beneficial in easing your child into a new at-home learning schedule as well. For example, by using warning phrases that let them know of an upcoming break or meal time, you can prepare your child for what’s coming next and make them feel more comfortable.
Finding a balance with the right setup
For some children who experience autism, a hybrid approach to learning (or combining the use of regular classroom based settings and online/elearning tools) is helpful in catering to a child’s strengths. While needs vary widely, the ability to tailor the learning process via a variety of different tools can make the transition to remote learning endeavours much more bearable and comfortable.
The use of video technology in remote learning, for instance, can particularly play to the strengths of children who thrive on repetition. Video modelling in remote learning is a great example of this, as it can aid in learning new skills by allowing children to mimic what they see on the screen.
When it comes to successfully navigating remote learning for autistic children, certain methods can make the transition easier.
Asynchronous learning, or the ability to complete classwork on one’s own time, can allow children to adhere to a schedule that works best for them. This style of remote learning can be found in use with online classroom materials like video or audio recordings, which can be played back as many times as needed. Accessibility through such materials also play an essential role, with closed captioning, clear directions, and predictable formatting all great examples.
Successfully navigating video calls
For many children who experience autism, communication can be a major challenge. When moving to online communication, these challenges can be magnified through additional distractions like in-call chats and having multiple students on one call (which can contribute to a distracting and noisy atmosphere).
Thankfully, there are several ways that such challenges can be managed successfully, and can make video calls more comfortable and predictable for a young student.
Disabling in-call chatting features and enabling the use of the mute function, for instance, can be essential in reducing distractions. In addition to preparing the child for the video chat ahead of time, communicating with the online instructor can also aid in making video calls more productive - for instance, requesting for smaller group calls or one-on-one calls can make for a better at-home learning routine.
While some children may thrive with remote learning, many who are on the autism spectrum may experience a variety of unique challenges, such as with online communication or the formatting of learning materials. However, through creating a new schedule, making use of asynchronous, video-focused learning materials, and utilising tools for effective communication, those on the spectrum can find remote learning to be more comfortable and tailored to their needs.